Monday 30 September 2013

Arsenal and Chelsea watch Cousins

Scouts from Arsenal and Chelsea have watched Jordan Cousins in action a number of times over the past couple of months and could make an offer at some stage. The Football League Paper comments, 'Chris Powell is known to be short of cash and could potentially cash in if a Premier League side were to make an offer.' Unfortunately, prior experience suggests that the offer may not fully reflect the player's potential.

Sunday 29 September 2013

FLP: don't blame Sir Chris, blame the board

'No spark, no flair, not much hope for Charlton' is the headline in today's Football League Paper written by Chris Dunlavy. Referring to the Millwall game, he states, 'If they play like that every week, they are going down. Even if they play a lot better, they are still going down. Take Yann Kermorgant out of the side and Charlton have no spark, no flair, no player who can pick a lock or leave a defender on his backside.

'That is not Powell's fault. This summer, seven players were released and only two procured, both on frees. The majority of the squad have contracts that expire within a year. Charlton, it seems, have a board either unwilling or incapable of financing Championship football.'

After referring to the reliance on youth development, Dunlavy comments, 'Charlton need quality, not potential. Without a striker and a playmaker, it is hard to see where goals are coming from. If Powell is allowed to get one or both in January, the Addicks should be OK. If not, a return to League One is inevitable.'

Yesterday we lacked three of our best players: Kermorgant, Solly and Jackson. The 'Powell out now' crowd have become more confident and vociferous, but different tactics or different combinations of players won't work if, collectively, the team is not up to Championship standard.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Only good thing was the weather

It was far from grim ‘oop North but a warm, sunny early Autumn day with the temperature just short of 20 degrees as the teams came out on the pitch at Turf Moor, writes Helen Hodgson. Charlton skipper Johnnie Jackson was out, having been injured in training. With Charlton playing a 4-5-1, Wood dropped to the bench.

Neither side was dominant in early play which was interrupted by quite a few free kicks but no goalmouth action. Wiggins and Stewart linked up well, but there was no final product. The home crowd was subdued.

Pritchard made a good challenge on Vokes near the corner flag. Charlton won a free kick 35 yards out, but the move was unproductive. The general atmosphere was of a bore draw, but at least Charlton were looking solid and giving Burnley no real chances.

After Pritchard was caught late, Charlton were awarded a free kick in a promising position. Wiggins put the free kick in very close to the keeper and Church almost got a touch on it. Dervitte reacted well as Charlton looked momentarily exposed.

Following a free kick, the Clarets launched an attack just after the half hour mark, but the header from Vokes went well wide.

Then suddenly Trippier, who had been allowed plenty of space, put in a quality cross and Ings was able to score his 10th goal of the season to make it 1-0 on 38 minutes. It was a little bit too easy for the home side. Once again no clean sheet.

One of the linos picked up a foot injury, allowing Chris Powell to have a chat with the Charlton players. Stephens turned supplier for Church, the keeper put the ball round the post, but a goal kick was awarded.

Morrison and Wiggins had to deal with a threat by the corner flag at the expense of a throw in. Trippier tried a shot from 40 yards out from a free kick, but it went wide.

HT : Clarets 1, Addicks 0

Pritchard was taken off and Harriott brought on in the hope of supplying the missing quality from wide areas. Wilson put the ball back to Hamer who picked it up leading to calls for an indirect free kick. The referee lost patience with Wilson’s challenges and booked him.

Wilson intercepted well but conceded the first corner of the game to Burnley. Although it momentarily enlivened the home support, it was unproductive. The play was scrappy with the Addicks posing no real threat, but nor were Burnley. The Clarets won a corner, but it was totally wasted.

Church was looking very isolated up front. Burnley took off Kightly and brought on Junior Stanislas to run at the yellow carded Wilson.

Charlton were caught out in defence. Once again it was too easy for Vokes to make it 2-0 for the home side. Gower was taken off and replaced by Sordell.

Church, who had suffered from a lack of service, put in a diving header but it went wide. Harriott put in a fierce low cross from the left, the first real quality ball from the Addicks, but Church was unable to connect. He complained to the lino that he was held back.

Marney got a yellow card. Wiggins stayed down and received treatment. From the free kick, Church’s header went straight at the keeper.

Wilson annoyed the home fans by going down a little too easily. Charlton got their first corner of the game. It was a decent corner from Stephens and the Addicks kept up the pressure until Church fell over a Clarets player who was already down.

Burnley near scored a third, but the crossbar came to Charlton’s rescue. Harriott put in a decent cross, but Sordell’s volley was well wide. Stewart made way for the returning Kermorgant.

Burnley won a corner and Vokes smashed the ball in to score his second to make it 3-0. Dervitte was beaten to the ball.

Charlton looked short of ideas and there was no sustained pressure at any time during the match.

Looks like 4-5-1

It looks like 4-5-1 at Burnley today with Church on his own up front. How suited he is to that role remains to be seen. I am pleased to see Cousins in midfield, along with the mercurial Stephens (he is playing 'oop North today), along with the promising Stewart, the usually dependable Gower and the sometimes technically deficient Pritchard.

Kermorgant is on the bench, but whether he is fit for more than a cameo remains to be seen.

Clarets Mad have at last come out with their preview and are taking the cautious line that it's as difficult a match as any and any side can beat any other side on the day in what is admittedly a competitive league: Clarets

Friday 27 September 2013

Turf Moor not an inviting prospect

Charlton face the daunting task of trying to get their season back on track at Turf Moor tomorrow. The Clarets have won five out of their last six matches and are currently 2nd in the table. Last weekend they beat Leeds United away and in midweek they defeated Nottingham Forest in the League Cup at Turf Moor. No wonder the odds favour a Burnley win at 5/6, draw 12/5 and a Charlton win at 7/2. It is 11 games since we kept a clean sheet.

The Addicks won 1-0 there last season, but Burnley fans had a sense of injustice about the result and our away form is nowhere near as good this season. Moreover, it seems pretty certain that we will without Yann Kermorgant who is one of our key players. Another minus is the absence of Chris Solly, while Leon Cort is also not available.

Burnley might be seen as a bit of a surprise package, particularly given the departure of Charlie Austin who scored 24 goals for them last season, securing a 11th place finish. Four Four Two had them finishing 16th this season. Manager Sean Dyche is remaining cautious, saying after the Leeds win, 'We have mad a nice start.'

Chris Powell may well start 3-5-2 as it still gives us our best chance of keeping it tightish as we showed in the draw at Watford. It's a pity in one way because Stewart and Harriott are our best options for pace and goals and they miss out in this formation.

However, one Addick commented, 'I hope he goes for a 451 with two proper wingers in Harriott and Stewart supported by our three best central midfielders: Cousins, Jackson and Stephens. I really don’t understand why Chris hasn’t started Jordan Cousins in recent weeks—from what I’ve seen from him this season he looks to be the most talented midfield player in the squad. So, why hasn't he been playing, or am I missing something?'

Another supporter drew attention to the dangers of 'the Pardew Principle! Have a bad game and get dropped. Then after having rotated over 30 different players in less than half a season wonder why you haven't got a settled side or have a clue what your best team is. Thank god we have a manager with more sense than that.' The problem for Chris Powell is that he is damned if he does change the team around and damned if he doesn't.

A long-term supporter commented, 'Given recent form, I have no expectations of a result today, but we do need to see an improved performance and for the players to show they have got the desire to be in the side.'

The odds must be on a Clarets win, but the Addicks can sometimes pull a surprise result out of the hat as happened at home to Leicester City. Let's hope referee David Coote doesn't live up to his name. He can always called on the splendidly named fourth official, Sebastian Stockbridge.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Pope signs three year deal

At a time when most Charlton players are on expiring contracts, and show it when they play, keeper Nick Pope has signed a three year deal at The Valley: Pope.

Good keepers can take time to mature and Pope requires further development which may require loans. Indeed, he has now joined Aldershot on a month's loan. If someone does come in for him on a permanent basis, the contract should ensure a reasonable price or he might even eventually become first choice keeper for us, especially if we are playing at a lower level.

Not sure about his characterisation of Charlton as a 'big' club, but I suppose that compared with Bury Town we are.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Talking Charlton with a top football author

The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football Is Wrong by Chris Anderson and David Sally has been the best selling sports book this summer. It was therefore a real pleasure to hop on to the Deutsche Bahn to London today and have lunch outside in the sunshine with Chris Anderson and to talk with him about the book and about Charlton. An American living in central London for two years, Anderson has been to The Valley a number of times with his two boys, most recently for the Millwall game. He thinks that there is a nice atmosphere at Charlton, but was surprised by the low attendance at the derby.

I have to say I was impressed by what Anderson told me about the book. Sales are well into five figures already, before the impending launch of the American edition. The most copies any book I have written has sold are in the 5,000 - 6,000 range. Moreover, the book is being translated into many languages: Portuguese for the Brazilian market, Italian, Finnish (a very difficult language) and Japanese (the most difficult language I have encountered apart from Welsh). I have only been translated into Chinese and Korean.

The book deliberately uses intermediate level statistics, two variable linear regressions. Econometrics has become a lot more sophisticated since then, but the regressions generate scattergrams which can be used to identify 'outlier' clubs that have done particularly well or badly in some respect. However, much of the book is structured around a series of well-told football stories. It is thus very readable.

The success of the book, and its suggestions about how one might coach more effectively, have given Chris an entrée to the closed, village world of English football. Only last week he was up at Leeds United's training ground watching the first team train.

The talk turned to Charlton. Chris had been to the Millwall game. He agreed with many of the observations made by Addicks afterwards. The midfield struggled; Piggott should have come off earlier; things improved when Stewart and Harriott came on, and Powell deserved credit for switching to a 4-4-2, but he should have done it earlier.

Those observations are similar to ones made by many Addicks about the Millwall match. But Chris posed a difficult question: how well prepared are Charlton for matches? He asked because he felt that there was a pattern of Charlton playing better in the second half. To him this suggested that they had not researched their opponents sufficiently thoroughly or at least not used that knowledge as well as they could.

In the book, Chris and his co-author describe in some detail a visit they made to Everton's Finch Farm training ground and the preparations made there. We don't have the resources of a Premiership club and I am not sure how these things are done at The Valley. It's certainly a point I hadn't thought about.

Monday 23 September 2013

A League 1 Side With League 1 Ideas

Here is what The Grauniad had to say about our performance on Saturday. Quite a lot of it hits home.

Low on confidence and playing a brand of get-rid-quickly football that was easy to forget, Chris Powell's side had two shots on target, the first of them after 71 minutes, and there was a modicum of dissatisfaction from the fans at the final whistle, some of it aimed at the manager, the last link with the Premier League days of what in many ways was seen as a model club.

The rot set in when Iain Dowie was hired to replace Alan Curbishley in May 2006 and proceeded to stock up on largely pointless, expensive players and then endured a calamitous six months which saw the club quickly shelve plans to develop the fourth side of their revamped ground as their league position slumped.

They promptly slipped through two divisions with a succession of managers but Powell has taken them to a promotion and survived a season in the Championship since, although they still look a League One side with League One ideas. Only two players arrived on frees in the summer and seven were released. Rumblings about a proposed move away from The Valley to a site on the Greenwich Peninsula add to the sense of unease.

What happened with Semi Ajayi?

The talented Nigerian defender has been signed by Arsenal on what is described as a 'free transfer' from Charlton: Ajayi

The facts are a little complicated, according to Richard Cawley of the SLP. This is not a Jenkinson situation where we will benefit financially. He first went on trial at Norwich but then was scouted by Arsenal, but we won't even get a development fee for him because we only offered him a six month deal.

As for those fans who are now advocating bringing in Paolo di Canio as manager, words fail me. A passionate footballer does not necessarily make a good manager and criticising your own players publicly and privately does not raise morale. At Swindon, he was rightly regarded as a 'hand grenade'.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Awful game, awful goal, awful result

This is how one Addick summed up yesterday's home defeat by Millwall. I wasn't able to get to the game because my wife is unwell, and I am glad that I didn't as I would have been very dispirited from everything I have read and heard. Losing at home to Millwall is not a surprise, but the way in which we lost is what is painful.

The Football League Paper this morning said of Charlton: 'Sluggish, sloppy, lethargic - they exhibited about as much attacking intent as a conscientious objector. Against a side as limited and fragile as Millwall, their caution was totally unnecessary and quite rightly invited the derision of a frustrated Valley.'

We certainly miss Kermorgant when he is not available. Given the limitations of Sordell, I don't blame Chris Powell for starting Piggott, I just hope that the experience won't have sapped his confidence and impeded his development as a player.

As reports from other Addicks bloggers have suggested, the central midfield was a significant problem and many Addicks have criticised Bradley Pritchard in particular. The FLP says: 'Kept under wraps by Bailey. Shocker of a pass left Charlton exposed for goal.' Of Jackson, 'So often the talisman, his left boot offered just a couple of so-so corners.' Dale Stephens gets a more favourable mention: 'Best of all Addicks midfielders on the ball. Crosses caused panic.'

Our home form was poor last season, but we were helped by our away form which reflected the spirit of the players. The current lack of commitment by the players is worrying, but one has to remember that most of them are on expiring contracts. Chris Powell's contract has not been renewed and it has been suggested that his relations with the board are not always harmonious.

The 'Powell out' crowd has been emboldened by this result and performance and even some of his fans have expressed some doubts. However, we have to remember that he was given limited funds in the summer to strengthen the squad. If we are relegated, it will be because we do not have a Championship squad, even if some do argue that it is the manager's job to make silk purses out of sow's ears.

Most Championship clubs lose money, sometimes spectacularly. Blackburn reported losses of £27m earlier this week. There isn't a magic money tree full of cash and as it is the owners are having to cover a loss which is likely to be in the region of £7m-£8m again this year, perhaps more if attendances continue to fall. However, if we are relegated to League 1, they will be at risk of losing their investment.

A crumb of comfort is that we are not actually in a relegation position and there are other teams who are also struggling. Bolton may be too big to go down (but remember Wolves), while Barnsley's luck may run out and Yeovil are punching above their weight. The Massives also look as if they are in some difficulty after their 4-1 defeat at Birmingham. Unfortunately, our next game is away at Burnley who are a surprise package in second place after their win at Leeds yesterday.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Chris Powell talks about today's game

Chris Powell never played for Charlton against Millwall when he was with the club, but he recognises the importance of the match to fans in this interview in the Evening Standard: Millwall

The report also notes that Sir Chris continues to be interested in Jonathan Obika. However, the latest news about him is that Brighton and Hove Albion are stepping up their pursuit: Obika

There is also an interesting article on the game in The Grauniad which also looks at wider issues facing the two clubs: Pivotal game?

Friday 20 September 2013

Kermorgant could return - but doesn't

Yann Kermorgant may have recovered sufficiently from an ankle injury to play in tomorrow's derby against Millwall at The Valley. Unfortunately, he didn't and Pigott takes his place. Chris Solly remains a doubt after missing the last four games with a knee injury and isn't in the line up and fellow defender Leon Cort is also carrying a knock. Cameron Stewart is pushing to make his full debut after the on-loan Hull winger scored the Addicks' goal on Tuesday night on his first appearance as a substitute. However, he remains on the bench, perhaps just as well given his record in seeing off managers discussed in the Daily Mirror today.

Andy d'Urso, the banker from Billericay, is the referee which is not good news for either side. How he is allowed to referee such a crucial match defies belief. It will be no surprise if there is an errant red card.

Charlton have failed to score in their last three league games against Millwall, since the clubs shared eight League One goals at the Valley in December 2009. Millwall have won twice as many away league games against Charlton than they have lost (W14, D12, L7). It's 17 years since Charlton last beat their rivals: 2-0 at home in the second tier in March 1996.

On-loan Leeds striker Steve Morison could start for Millwall after scoring in their 3-1 win over Blackpool. Otherwise, Steve Lomas is likely to stick with the side which secured a first league victory of the season.

Former Addick Nicky Bailey did not distinguish himself in last weekend's 1-5 home defeat by Derby. He was apparently completely outplayed by Hughes and Bryson who 'waltzed around him at will' according to the Football League Paper. Bailey at least got a score of 4, but Martyn Woolford and Shaun Derry got unusually low scores of 3. Of Derry they said, 'With his greying hair, the 35-year old was a relic among the youthful buzz of Derby's midfield.'

Lomas has brought in 23-year old Leicester City striker Martyn Waghorn on a three month loan. The former England under-21 international had last season disrupted by an appendix problem and found it difficult to recover his form.

Odds (Coral) are: Charlton 11/10; Draw, 12/5; Millwall, 12/5.

Curbs: selling Parker was my big regret

Talking to players at Dorking, Alan Curbishley has said that his great regret as a football manager was selling Scott Parker. Without the sale Curbs reckons that the Addicks would have had a top five finish that season and who knows what the history of the club then might have been. It is one of the great 'if onlys'. Read more here: Parker

Thursday 19 September 2013

Another rebrand idea for club?

It's good to see Charlton Lido refurbished, but some controversy has been caused by re-naming it Royal Greenwich Lido: Lido

However, could this be a re-branding idea for a new investor to move the club up market? Never mind Hull Tigers or possibly Cardiff Red Dragons, they wouldn't match Royal Greenwich Athletic. The players could even have little crowns on their shirts.

Much better than the idea of re-branding the club Estuary which just conjures up visions of sticky mud: Estuary

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Charlton lose, Millwall win

Charlton lost 2-1 at Huddersfield last night while Saturday's opponents Millwall won their first game of the season by beating table topping Blackpool (who trained for the match at Sparrows Lane) 3-1. However, Charlton remain in 17th place in the table.

After a lacklustre first half from both sides, some thought that Chris Powell left his substitutions too late: Stewart for Ward on 68 minutes, immediately followed by Harriott for Sordell and then Piggott for Jackson on 86. However, the first two were ready on the touchline when the second goal went in against the run of play. It was Stewart who scored Charlton's consolation goal off the underside of the bar 11 minutes from time, although it should be emphasised that the match was a tight one.

For Huddersfield Joel Lynch scored the winner on 65 minutes with a stunning 35-year shot, reminiscent of one I saw scored there by another Welsh international, Johnnie Robinson. Vaughan had opened the home side's account two minutes into time added on in the first half. The Addicks dominated the closing stages but were unable to snatch an equaliser.

In the first half it was not until the 45th minute that either side managed to register an attempt on target, with Charlton's Simon Church heading straight into the hands of goalkeeper Alex Smithies. A minute later Hammill crossed to the far post for Vaughan to head home past Hamer.

Charlton, helped by some wayward defending, provided much more of an attacking threat after the restart and could count themselves unlucky when an on-target Johnnie Jackson effort struck 'Sodall' in the area and deflected harmlessly wide.

Possession was 52-48 in the home side's favour, but what is striking is how far attempts on target both teams had: two for Huddersfield and three for Charlton.

A Charlton fan from 'oop North who was there said: 'It was a dreadful game certainly, but we were extremely unlucky to lose and in my opinion (and I suspect that of many home fans too) were far more comfortable in possession, of which we had plenty, than they were.Unfortunately, they possessed a front-man worthy of the name, who took his one chance with consummate skill, while, for all our tiki-taka passing, we simply didn't.'

'Sordell has a (tiny) hint of class but seemingly no interest, Church huffs and puffs in a fan-pleasing way, but they appear never to have met before (admittedly, I don't think they've played together) and seemed out of sync with the midfield. We kept the ball impressively - but in the final third we were simply unable to get it to the strikers and when we did, their touch let them down.'

There does also seem to be an issue about the time it takes to make substitutions, although arguably Chris Powell should be less cautious about making them. An Addick has commented, 'The problem appears to be the time taken -in general- to make substitutions, as witnessed with Yann's injury at Watford. The 'system' appears to be ponderous at best,in notifying the 4th official, him getting the board ready, advising the ref, waiting for a stoppage- not helped by the substitute himself taking an eternity to prepare (putting shirt on, pudding shin pads on, taking jewellery off, etc.)- quite why all subs can't sit 'kitted and ready' for the duration of the game is a mystery to me, albeit wearing training tops over the match shirt.'

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Kermorgant injury is blow

An ankle injury to Yann Kermorgant may prevent from featuring in tonight's match at Huddersfield, although Addicks fans would probably give priority to him being fit for the clash with Millwall on Saturday.

Marvin Sordell or recent signing Cameron Stewart could come in or Chris Powell could go for a 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1 formation. The capable Richard Wood will play at centre-half if Leon Cort fails to shake off a knock, while Chris Solly is a doubt.

Town think that hard work on their part will be the key to success tonight. They are aware that Charlton have only been beaten in one of their last ten away matches and reckon that the Addicks have a strong midfield: Terriers

If Charlton lose they will have five points after the first six games for the second season running, their lowest return from the outset since the relegation campaign from the Premier League in 2006/07. After five games last season, a return of five points saw us in 21st place rather than 17th.

The abandoned match with Doncaster Rovers has been arranged for Tuesday 26th November (weather permitting).

All four goals down to Shelvey

Charlton product Jonjo Shelvey had a hand in all four goals in Swansea's 2-2 draw with Liverpool at the Liberty Stadium last night. First, he scored for the Swans then a poor back pass allowed Liverpool to equalise. Another sloppy pass put Liverpool ahead, but then he provided the assist for the equaliser. He has apologised to the fans (in English): Shelvey

One person tweeted that Shelvey had 'single handedly caused the Fantasy Football alogirithim to self-combust'.

As a result of Swansea's draw, Crystal Palace are now in the relegation places in the Premier League.

Monday 16 September 2013

We do have a match at Bruddersfield

While thoughts are already turning to Saturday's derby with Millwall, we do have a match at Huddersfield tomorrow night. J B Priestley's novel The Good Companions starts with a cloth clapped crowd streaming away from a football match at 'Bruddersfield', a thinly disguised Huddersfield. Town also have the distinction of having been supported by a prime minister, Harold Wilson, the man who kept us out of the Vietnam war. Edward Heath, despite being the MP for a constituency containing many Addicks, was a Gooner.

But enough history. This is going to be a competitive game, as was shown by our 3-2 defeat there in the League Cup. The two teams are actually next to each other in the form table, although that contains one match from last season. In the real table, Town are currently 11th with three more points than Charlton. They are unbeaten at home, where they have conceded only two goals, but this record involves two draws and just one win.

On Saturday they had a goalless draw with Doncaster in what was described as a typically feisty Yorkshire derby. Having been cheated by the weather at Charlton, Doncaster charm merchant manager Paul Dickov went ballistic about a denied penalty after a handball in the area was judged to have not been intentional by the referee.

For Huddersfield, keeper Alex Smithies was the star player, denying the visitors a tenth minute lead with an acrobatic save from Chris Brown. For the Terriers, it was very much a game of two halves with the home side upping their game in the second half.

Apart from Smithies and Adam Clayton who tried to rouse the team and drive play forward, most of the Town players seem to have had a torrid time. In defence skipper Peter Clarke occasionally had mix ups with his defensive partner Anthony Gerrard who made life easy for Doncaster in the first half by dropping off, but showed he was made of stern stuff by playing on with a bandaged head.

Even for those Addicks who live up 'oop North, and there are quite a few, a mid-week evening kick off is not ideal, although I still remember a 3-0 win there on a bleak Tuesday night. I have a good friend who is a Huddersfield fan, but for one reason or another, we haven't got together for a pre-match drink for some years.

Huddersfield are too canny to think they just have to turn up to claim the points, but I think this game might end in a draw, possibly goalless. Last year, of course, we won by the odd goal and once again it might be the case that one is enough for either side. This prediction will no doubt turn out to be hopelessly wrong.

Odds (Coral) are: Huddersfield, 5/4; Draw, 9/4; Charlton, 11/5. The referee, Stuart Attwell, is from Warwickshire so it's case of 'I know where you live' if there are any poor decisions. The linos are both from the north, while the fourth official, Mr Wigglesworth, is from South Yorkshire.

Sunday 15 September 2013

Shelvey comes of age

Today's Sunday Times has a feature on Jonjo Shelvey ahead of tomorrow's clash at the Liberty Stadium between Swansea City and Liverpol. The only mention of Charlton is at the beginning of the article where it is noted that 'when Shelvey swapped the homely charms of Charlton Athletic for the fluorescent glare of Anfield, he was barely 18.' Charlton were known as a selling club when I first watched them in the 1950s and it has been thus most of the time. Our best talents develop their careers elsewhere. At least we have made some money out of Shelvey which was not the case for 'Judas' Defoe.

The article notes that Shelvey was stagnating as a squad player at Liverpool. 'When we won the League Cup in 2012 and I wasn't on the bench. it hurt,' he says. 'Some people might see [the move to Swansea] as a step back but I couldn't sit on the bench and take the money.' It is a dilemma that faces many talented young players in the Premier League.

When he met Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, 'He didn't sell me the club, it wasn't about the area, it was just about playing football' and it was music to the ears of the 21-year old. He admits that he loved playing for Liverpool and that he loved the city. Abertawe is a very different place from Liverpool. When I was last there, I was interested by how many people were speaking Welsh. Everyone has to study it at school and teenagers often use it at home so that their English-speaking parents can't understand what they are talking about.

I have two nephews for whom Welsh is their first language, but I know only a few words and it is, I believe, one of the most difficult languages to learn. (Mind you, I am struggling with Portuguese which is an increasing necessity given the size of our local Portuguese-speaking community). I was joking with my now thirty something nephew recently about when he came to stay with us when he was young and blurted something out in Welsh in fear and astonishment. It was 'doggie in the house!' He was used to sheepdogs living outside.

Anyway, the people of Swansea appear to have taken Shelvey to their heart: 'In Liverpool, it was Liverpool, Everton and to some extent Tranmere, but here it's just Swansea. Everyone's a fan and they're always wanting a photo, an autograph and to wish you all the best. [Just like going to Bluewater really]. I don't mind that at all: it's something that comes with the job and it's lovely to be recognised. I love it here.'

Shelvey does his talking with his football, so he probably can do without the Welsh lessons.

Good away point

I said that I would have taken a point before the game and the 1-1 draw at Watford represents a good result for Charlton, especially with Millwall crashing to defeat at home. The draw keeps the Addicks in 17th place. Charlton had 62 per cent of the possession.

Charlton thought they had opened the scoring when Richard Wood got the ball over the line, but the offside flag was already up. Just after the break, Belakem, who had already tripped Simon Church on the edge of the box, repeated his error and gave away a penalty for an unnecessary sliding challenge on Wilson. Zola claims that there was no contact and that Wilson should have been booked for simulation. Kermorgant made no mistake from the spot, firing high in the net past the keeper's left hand, to make it 1-0 on 47 minutes.

Minutes later Deeney forced a smart low save from Hamer. The Hornets equalised on 71 minutes through Pudil after Ben Hamer could only parry a shot from Fabbrini. Stephens tested Almunia on 60 minutes and Jackson later went close for the Addicks, but Watford were able to celebrate their 1,000th draw in league football, although manager Gianfranco Zola made it clear afterwards that expectations were higher for the match and things didn't go as he wanted.

The Football League Paper this morning gives scores of 7 to Dervitte, Morrison and Kermorgant. Dervitte 'worked well with Morrison and Wood, stood firm in face of Watford pressure.' Morrison was 'solid at the back, coped comfortably with Deeney for the most part.' Good to see Morro back on form.

Friday 13 September 2013

Light up front?

There is a surprising lack of comment from the Watford area on tomorrow's clash at Vicarage Road, but this interview with an Addicks fan poses the question of whether we are light up front: Hornets

I would put it a different way and ask whether the midfield provides good enough service to the forwards and links up between attack and defence. The defence also needs to avoid errors. It's five months since we've had a clean sheet.

Odds are: Watford 7/10, Draw 13/5, Charlton 4/1. Last year we won a 4-3 victory in this fixture, but I doubt whether there will be that much excitement tomorrow and I would take a draw now. In fourteen meetings at Vicarage Road over 34 years, we have only won twice.

Cameron Stewart will be available for selection and Chris Solly returns from injury. The Charlton squad is the least cosmopolitan in the Championship, being made up of just five nationalities.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Jonathan Obika rumours

Now that loans are available, there is speculation that Jonathan Obika will leave Spurs for the rest of the season or at least until Christmas. We are being mentioned, but I think that largely reflects the fact that journos knew he was here before and that Chris Powell rated him. Middlesbrough have been mentioned as a possibility, but I think that Brighton and Hove Albion is the most likely destination.

I'm not sure there would be the kind of regular first team opportunity he would want, now that we have strengthened our forward line and Church and Kermorgant look effective, albeit that Sordell has been a bit of a disappointment.

Millwall have declared their intention to be active in securing loans, as well they might. Their manager has declared that if you can play at the Toolbox, you can play anywhere, and you can see his point. He also argues that the club is a 'springboard for young talent.'

Meanwhile, the latest BBC price of football survey shows that Crystal Palace have the most expensive pies in the four divisions at £4. Admittedly, non-league Kidderminster charge the same, but their pies are famous for taste and content and have not been brought round the corner from Sainsbury's.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

More beefs from Pritch

I have a great deal of sympathy with Bradley Pritchard's criticisms of slow-moving tourists in The Football League Paper , especially on the tube. In my experience the worst offenders are from 'oop North rather than those from abroad (who often seem to have done a bit of research in advance). When I arrive at Euston it is very difficult to get through the ticket hall because of people who have failed to buy a ticket that includes a Travelcard. They then stand in front of the route maps, blocking already crowded corridors.

In addition you have people with huge, heavy cases that are depriving the likes of Addick cabbie Kevin Portch (one time editor of Goodbye Horse) of a fare. Don't get me started on 'my stroller is bigger than yours.' There is also now a belief that if you are travelling with a close friend, you can stand two abreast on the escalator, blocking the overtaking lane.

Anyway, Pritch reassures us, 'No one really does it around the training ground which is good news otherwise I'd be angry all the time.' Presumably he is not 'rushing to get a train' at Sparrows Lane, but clearly everyone is energised and walking at a fast pace.

Pritch is also unhappy with name droppers who mention they are friends with some Z-list celebrity: 'My roommate Cedric Evina, does it all the time, and it is quite funny. He always mentions about how he knows Emmanuel Frimpong and is friends with him just because he was on loan at Charlton for a period, it is hilarious to listen to - but also a bit sad!' Just as well Frimpong didn't return, otherwise he might have found his nickname was 'Z list'.

Monday 9 September 2013

Pritch gets hiss after saying that cats are weird

Normally feline match analyst Rescue Cat Reg saves his hisses for match day, but he has given Bradley Pritchard a special hiss after the midfielder gave a critique of cats in the Room 101 feature in The Football League Paper yesterday. It's good to see a Charlton player featured, although the FLP has always given a lot of coverage to Pritch, possibly because of his non-league background (the Non-League Paper is a sister publication).

On cats, Pritch says: 'I just don't get them at all, the whole thing of having a cat is weird to me. As a pet they come up to you for attention and food and then they go off and will probably be at your next door neighbours' getting some more food. They're so greedy and it's just stupid.' It has to be admitted that there is a fat cat syndrome, but there are also some overweight dogs around. Indeed, it has been suggested that overweight owners tend to have overweight pets.

Pritch continued, 'Everyone's really curious about them at the training ground for some reason, people always ask owners of them about it. Most of us feel the same way about them - we just don't really get it all.'

I must admit that I have never really thought of footballers as cat people, they tend to suit those with a more sedentary lifestyle. Dogs are another matter, although again footballers are away from home a lot. I suspect that footballers with families tend to have either a cat or a dog given general levels of pet ownership in the UK.

Pritch also gave his views on tourists and Cedric Evina, but let's make this an electronic part work. You can tell it's the international break. More later.

Sunday 8 September 2013

Saudi prince considered Charlton

Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the new co-owner of Sheffield United, turned down the chance to invest in three Championship clubs, according to The Times. The Saudi industrialist, who bought a 50 per cent stake in United from Kevin McCabe, the club’s former outright owner, said he looked at investing in Leeds United, Charlton Athletic and Derby County.

Leeds is understandable as it has real Premiership potential, but needs more investment. Derby County is in a reasonably prosperous area of the Midlands (engineering remains strong in the area) and has a good catchment area with no other major clubs in the vicinity (I discount Burton Albion). It is also near the national football headquarters.

But what about Charlton? It's located in a world city and its catchment area is likely to increase in population. The stadium can cope with the Premier League and there is a good training ground.

It has been suggested, but not corroborated, that the club was holding out for £43m from a recent credible investor. One also has to remember that any investor would acquire quite considerable debt which is likely to increase further in the course of the present season. League rules would prevent any short-term splashing of cash.

The Prince was certainly concerned about debt levels, stating in today's Sunday Times that 'I didn't want to go into a club with huge debt levels because that would be detrimental to achieving my goals.' It would also be difficult (and foolish) to compete with Sheffield United's offer of half the club for just £1.

Prince Abdullah saw the Blades lose 3-1 at Rotherham on Saturday, so he is also acquiring a familiarity with the challenges ahead and the scenic landscape of industrial South Yorkshire. Hopefully, he will stay in the nearby Peak District when he comes to see matches.

If the club is not being offered at a realistic price, and it has to be emphasised that these claims are not verifiable, then one would have to ask why not. As one fan remarked to me, 'It doesn't add up.' I don't have an answer and perhaps we shall all be pleasantly surprised by an announcement of new investment.

Friday 6 September 2013

Addicks do well on agents' fees

Intermediaries in any market are rarely popular, and this particularly applies to football agents. The Football League has now released its report on agents' fees in the 2012/13 season: Agents

Charlton come out relatively well, having spent just £227,170 on a total of 52 transactions. That works out at under £5,000 per transaction, although no doubt some cost nothing at all and others somewhat more than £5k. The limitation of this data is that it tells us nothing about dispersion around the mean. Millwall spent a rather similar amount of £233,400, but Crystal Palace splashed out £1.34m as they headed for the Premier League.

Blackburn who paid out nearly £3.6m at an average cost of almost £45k with probably a few free chickens thrown in, did not seem that bothered about how they spent their money, no doubt wisely guided by their global football adviser 'Chevvy' Singh. Across the league around 70% of transactions were done with no agent involvement and Blackpool were the only Championship club who made no payments to agents at all. Moreover, if they needed to put someone up overnight they could do it for £15.

Top Addick Attacked Over Meetings With Assad

A leading Addick has been criticised over two meetings he held with Syria's President Assad, although it is not thought that he made any attempt to convince the Syrian dictator of the virtues of Addicktion, to encourage him to invest in the club or even presented him with anything from the club shop. Indeed, as the visits were made as part of a delegation, Assad could have been left with a bewildering array of mementoes from different clubs. As it is, the regime has accused Barcelona of using Champions League matches to send coded messages to insurgents: Plot

Indeed, although the one time I met the Addick in question in a non-football context I crossed swords with him, the whole attack strikes me as rather unfair. It has to be remembered that at one time the view in Britain was that President Assad was a potential modernising force whose wife had been brought up and educated in Britain, where he had studied as an eye surgeon, and therefore might have Anglophile tendencies. She is certainly very familiar with London's most expensive shops. However, in contrast to unproven suggestions that Osama bin Laden went to matches at Highbury, there is no record of Assad attending any football matches while he was studying in London.

Roger Godsiff is the Labour MP for Birmingham Hall Green and the chairman of the Charlton Athletic Community Trust. There is no doubt that he is an authentic Addick as he originates from Catford and was a Lewisham councillor and Mayor of Lewisham, and he makes it clear in reference publications that he is a Charlton supporter.

The latest edition of Private Eye harshly describes Godsiff as a 'veteran nonentity' and lambasts his contribution to the debate on Syria. It quotes him as saying 'I have been to Syria on two occasions and had audiences with President Assad, and they were certain illuminating.' Private Eye comments, 'Illuminating for Assad? One thinks not' and goes on to suggest that the Syrian dictator needs a new diary secretary. One possible reading of the report is that Godsiff was a supporter of the Syrian regime when in fact he was simply making the case against military intervention as did other MPs.

When I checked Hansard I found that it was a classic case of a quotation being taken out of context. What Godsiff went on to say was: 'Syria is ruled by him [Assad] as a family fiefdom and has a history of brutality. Its political structure—the Ba’athist party—is modelled on the old Russian Communist party. I say that because I do not, however, believe that President Assad is a fool, but I will return to that later.'

Any mention of Charlton in a Middle East context always remains me of Iran and Karim Bhageri who remains our most capped player but only appeared once as a substitute for Charlton. He was nevertheless the first Iranian to play in the Premiership and played his last game for Iran in 2010. I never got the full sp on that and I won't be around when the government archives are opened in the future.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Competition for Hamer

Rumours of the arrival of a goalkeeper to provide competition for Ben Hamer have been confirmed. The South London Press reports: 'Charlton have signed goalkeeper Ben Alnwick on a one-year deal after his contract was terminated by Barnsley. Alnwick, formerly on the books of Sunderland and Tottenham, could move outside of the transfer window because his Oakwell contract was terminated on Monday.'

I understand that 'Alnwick' may be pronounced 'Annick' like the town. Whoever is in goal defenders will be able to call 'Ben'.

Wikipedia states: 'Benjamin Robert "Ben" Alnwick (born 1 January 1987) is an English footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for Championship side Charlton Athletic. Alnwick started his career at Sunderland in 2004, having progressed through the club's youth ranks, but never fully established himself in the first team.

'He left for Tottenham Hotspur in January 2007, having made 19 league appearances, but never made more than a single league appearance for Tottenham. Instead, he spent several loan spells away from the club, at Luton Town, Leicester City, Carlisle United, Norwich City, Leeds United, Doncaster Rovers and Leyton Orient.

He switched permanently to Barnsley in July 2012, and made 12 appearances, but was deemed surplus to requirements in September 2013, and his contract was terminated by mutual consent. Alnwick has represented England at under-16, under-16, under-17, under-18, under-19 and under-21 levels, but has yet to represent the full international side.'

Whilst this has occurred outside the transfer window, it is a good conclusion to a generally satisfactory experience for Charlton bearing in mind the constraints imposed by new league financial rules and the continuing losses made by the club.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Cameron Stewart in on loan

In a late deal in the transfer window the Addicks have signed Cameron Stewart on loan from Hull City: Stewart

Celtic had been chasing the 22-year old and it was thought that he might join them as he has family north of the border, although he was born in Manchester. He has chosen to represent England rather than Scotland in international youth football. There were also reports that Blackpool were interested in him.

He was originally with Manchester United, but since he joined the Tigers his opportunities for first team football have been limited by injury. Although he is a winger, he can also play as a striker: Cameron Stewart

I had been given to understand that Chris Solly signed a four year contract on Saturday which would increase his value should he be sold, but fortunately he has not been in this transfer window. The announcement has been made today (Thursday). There was also interest in Rhoys Wiggins which may have unsettled him. But it is pleasing that the squad remains intact.

Danny Green has joined MK Dons on a one month loan.

Joe Pigott has signed a three year deal which I think is a very sensible move and will be welcomed by fans.

Monday 2 September 2013

Agreement reached at employment tribunal

Having learnt from the Court Listing Service that the case of Mr R J Everitt (claimant) and Charlton Athletic Football Club Limited (respondent) was to be held at London South Employment Tribunal in Croydon today, I travelled there. Everitt was formerly head of club development, and before that communications manager, before his dismissal last summer.

The journey involved passing Selhurst Park and getting a view of what Rick Everitt has described 'as the contraption that passes for a main stand at Selhurst.' There is also a notice at Selhurst Station informing unwary travellers that they have come to 'the home of Crystal Palace Football Club' representing '100 years of pride and passion.'

Police were very much in evidence on the stations and even on the train itself. I was prepared for a shock when I stepped out of West Croydon Station, but even so it was worse than I had expected. Suspicious characters lurking round the station; police out in numbers; pawnbrokers' shops and money exchanges.

Martin Prothero was in attendance, while Charlton were represented by Mr Kaspar Glynn QC. Both of these gentlemen were trailing large cases, presumably containing documents relevant to the case. Everitt (50), who has a Ramsgate address, was wearing a blue suit.

The Wharf and The News Shopper were represented. Richard Redden, the author of a well-known and lavishly illustrated history of Charlton, was in attendance, as was one other fan.

Mr Glynn advised the judge that Everitt had agreed to withdraw the claim on the basis of a confidential agreement. Everitt confirmed that this was the case.

Asked by this blog for a statement after proceedings had finished, Everitt said, 'I have absolutely nothing to say other that I'm pleased it's over.'

Of two other similar matters, one is believed to have been resolved by agreement, and the other is expected to be listed in March.

A good place to be

It's good to be going into the international break with a win over a club expected to beat us. It puts us in a lower mid-table position which is where we may well end up. Indeed, I would take it now.

Unfortunately I was unable to make the game on Saturday because of family issues and that may have helped us. Indeed, I also plan to stay away from the Millwall game, given the early kick off and all the hassle last year, so we may secure a rare victory over the Spanners.

My Foxes supporting friend has said nothing since Saturday. If I had one piece of advice for Leicester City fans, it would be 'get over Yann Kermorgant' and I am pleased to see that at least one football writer agrees: Kermorgant

Nigel Pearson has got out his book of excuses and blamed the referee. I must admit that I think Deadman is a poor referee, as shown by the number of cards he waved on Saturday. However, his zombie like performances have handicapped us in the past, so it was time we got the rub of the green. As far as I could make out from Emma's slow motion report from the 'field of play', James thought he deserved a penalty and when he didn't get one told the referee to get back in his shroud. This was not a sensible thing to do when you are on a yellow.

It also looks as if there are not going to be any last minute transfer shocks in terms of players departing which is a relief. I wouldn't expect any last minute acquisitions either (leaving aside Acworthian rumours of the 'Bale to Charlton' kind). I think that the Dale Stephens to Wolves rumour is just that, apart from anything else it's the Black Country not the North (One wag suggested that the fee would be £69m). Chris Powell has rightly rubbished reports of Yann Kermorgant going to table topping Blackpool. Transfer deadline day: don't you love it?

Of course, there can always be surprises. It would have been good to strengthen the squad and try for the play offs, but at least the Capital One Cup match suggested a new formation which seemed to work. Players who lost their form seem to have recovered it, so all credit to Sir Chris Powell. If we get a bad result, the 'Powell out' brigade are out in force, but if we get a win, they stay quiet.

The one blot on the weekend was the win for Crystal Palace, admittedly against a side managed by the eccentric Paolo di Canio whose main idea seems to be to make his players dislike him and undermine their morale. What is worse, I have to be in Croydon over the next day or two. Hopefully, I won't see any of the stripey ones.

Croydon is an odd place. North Croydon is, to be frank, a bit of a dump. The glazier of Cantona fame came from North Croydon, in the road where my wife originally lived. No surprise that trouble emanated from there in the riots. South Croydon is very up market. I remember dropping a girl friend at university when she said that her ambition in life was to live in Purley. I think that most of the Nigels and Nigellas do not actually live in Croydon. My brother-in-law lives in Crawley and, although he claims to follow Palace, he also says he has no interest in football, two statements that are logically compatible.

Living in Thornton Heath, my wife's father was a keen Palace fan, but fortunately refused to take my future wife on the grounds that girls do not go to football. She then had the good sense to get her first job in Woolwich.

I think the last time I was in Croydon was in the 1990s for a reunion held by some very old friends of my parents. It was fascinating to meet an elderly lady who had gone to support Charlton with her father in the 1920s (which rather hits on the head the 'girls and football' nonsense). She confirmed that they were then known as the Addicks as a corruption of 'Addocks.

Sunday 1 September 2013

Does shirt sponsorship pay?

It certainly pays for clubs, but it does bring rewards for sponsors? This post on a sister site starts with a discussion of the case of Charlton: Shirt sponsorhip